Where are all the automotive technicians? Labor Shortage Explained.

It is no secret that automotive businesses including Collision Repair Facilities, Car Dealerships, and Auto Repair Centres are finding it difficult to attract and retain qualified automotive technicians or, even qualified employees in the automotive industry today.

No matter what the title of the position is, it seems that there are just not enough qualified and trade-skilled individuals to fill the heavy demand that we need in the automotive industry to not only survive but to truly thrive.

As an industry overall, we are all to blame, as we have known about this constant decline in individuals entering the automotive industry for the past 10+ years now and nothing truly has been done to fix the problem.

Without focusing on too much of the problem at hand, my goal for today is to come to the root of what exactly we are dealing with. To figure out how we can be a significant part of the solution to this ongoing problem and while it’s important to mention that even though we are dealing with a difference and change in technology and generations, I do feel strongly that the automotive industry remains competitive and, quite possibly more advanced than other industries themselves.

What I can’t seem to wrap my head around is that 99.9% of us are born into this world and exposed to vehicles at a very young age. From the exposure of fischer price cars, hot wheels, remote control cars, and the famous power wheels, we have all been born and raised around cars or vehicles of some kind in our lives. Vehicles are notably a considerable part of our lives!

So, what really is this information telling us? It is showing the industry’s significant scale and the potential for a powerful impact to be made with a massive potential to turn this industry around and reattract individuals to want to take part in this trade. Individuals sit dormant awaiting opportunity but too often enough their link between passion and reaction to connect all the dots is lost. Whether it be through a lack of effort, marketing, organization, or just the common lack of know-how, our industry will continue its downward trend unless we are willing to shift perspective on what it takes to succeed in the 21st century. 

As an automotive marketing and solutions company, we are all about thinking outside the box and getting to the source of the problem, and as such we decided to do a year’s worth of in-depth research on how we can help to provide value, and this is what we found.

  • For the schools located across North America, it is apparent that the school’s curriculum, tools, and facilities for training are outdated.
  • Individuals when comparing the opportunities with other positions will go after those that offer more “perks” with the job. Including, higher pay, job security, air conditioning, nicer facilities (ex. lunchroom, clean bathroom), is provided a 401K/Pension, and a better work/life balance.
  • The opportunity and limits to get funding and/or scholarships aren’t always easy for someone who is looking to qualify. The resources are limited, and qualifications are high on how to qualify.
  • When an individual enters the industry as an apprentice, their training path usually starts with tasks non-related to the role they are interested in.
  • Individuals don’t understand what exactly is available to them in this industry and what career path an individual could take should they wish to take part and grow.
  • The available marketing always talks about how to sell a car, or fix a car, but rarely or hardly ever does it sell how incredible this industry is to individuals looking to work. Marketing is minimal and therefore, without marketing – there is minimal awareness, attraction, and understanding.
  • Invest in Marketing Dollars: As I mentioned above, one of the main reasons why I believe that we have a shortage of technicians is because of the lack of awareness and value that is out there in regard to the industry itself. No one thinks of it because it’s never top of mind. That’s where a great marketing plan comes in and can help to build that awareness that we all need. A recommendation of having a budget of 3-6% of your total sales for marketing is highly recommended.
  • Apprenticeship Programs: Collaborate with local trade schools or vocational programs to create apprenticeship opportunities. This can provide aspiring automotive technicians with hands-on experience and a pathway into the industry.
  • Recruitment Events: Organize recruitment events at your automotive facilities. These events can include facility tours, demonstrations of advanced equipment, and presentations on career opportunities. Promote these events on social media to reach a wider audience.
  • Scholarships and Tuition Reimbursement: Establish scholarship programs with industry partners’ involvement or offer tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing automotive technician education. This incentive can attract individuals who are interested in the field but may be hesitant due to the cost of education.
  • Industry Partnerships: You can forge partnerships with equipment and tool distributors who are also facing the labor shortage. Collaborate on joint recruitment efforts and share resources to attract talent to both sides of the industry. Connect with Community and even Online Communities, Trade Organizations, Meet Ups
  • Promote Training and Development: Commit to employee growth and development. Showcase your investment in ongoing training, certifications, and skill enhancement programs.
  • Retain Talent: Your employees are your number one business asset, so why wouldn’t you treat them like that? Offer better pay, benefits, and perks to your current employees and the employees you recruit. Come up with a recruitment strategy.

Another point worth mentioning is that there are still quite a few employees who start working in our industry that never really get a “chance” to see what this industry can provide.

It’s typical, a business’s workload gets all-consuming and the priorities of getting sales and business in and out the door are far more important than training within, or so it seems. This is where the importance of talent development comes into play and the steps you want to be taking to make sure that there is a proper career path for any employee to follow should they wish to advance in their career.

If your receptionist is showing an interest in continuing their journey in the automotive industry, why not send them to school, or a related course, and hire them for an automotive technician position? If your C-tech is eager to move up, advance their skills and learn more, consider sending them to a skill development program. BETAG North America’s OPRS (Outer Panel Repair Specialist Program) for Collision Repair Programs allows entry-level technicians to train into becoming BETAG Master Technicians through BETAG’s Managed Career Pathway

For Dealership and Auto Repair facilities, seriously contemplate the potential of sending your already, in-house technicians for more advanced certifications. New vehicles are becoming even more complex by featuring an array of advanced safety features, sensors, finishes, and much more. This evolution places a premium on automotive technicians who must possess not only the experience, education, and high skills but also meet OEM standards. This requires automotive technicians who have gone through schooling to also develop their skills continuously.

Even though schooling seems like the obvious answer here to fix the labor shortage, it’s clear that this is only one piece of a very large pie that is contributing to a lack of individuals in our industry. Even schools would say that we cannot educate someone who doesn’t want to be educated in this field.

I truly believe this is due to the lack of education, awareness, and overall understanding of how truly incredible this industry is and how much opportunities lie within it.

We as an entire industry need to get to the root cause of this shortage and put a prime focus on getting involved and doing our part to all make a difference.

This isn’t a labor problem we are discussing anymore but an industry-wide epidemic. If we continue at this pace, where will be the industry in a few years? Replaced by the technology that we ourselves design?

With the growing complexity of vehicles and what is needed for a proper repair, the heat is only being turned up as far as attracting not only employees but new generations of vehicle lovers to this industry. It all starts by igniting a passion. We challenge you to be that spark that does it for someone new or stay the fuel in someone’s long-running journey.

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